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November 2006

In response to my latest balance sheet, Wacko asked a question:

Any pointers on how to calculate an automobile’s depreciation? Obviously I can look at Kelley Blue Book, but I do not know the monthly depreciation.

Also, I was wondering if anyone knew of an accurate way to determine the value of one’s home. I want to be able to balance the current value of my home with the loan on it.

What is the true value of an asset? Read the full article →


Word must be getting around the office that I’m up on the current personal finance issues in the world. A coworker who I don’t normally work with came to me to ask my opinion the other day. She’s saving for her wedding, seven months from now. The soon-to-be bride, who received some money earmarked for the wedding, had heard about ING Direct and wanted my opinion.

I steered her away. Even though I keep a lot of my savings at ING Direct, I generally don’t recommend them anymore. They have great customer service to be sure, but there are better places to stash cash, offering better short term returns. I suggested two safe options. Obviously, with such a short time frame, the stock market was out.

For savings, I suggested HSBC Direct, which is currently offering a 5.05% annual percentage yield. To compare, ING Direct just increased their APY from 4.4% to 4.5%. HSBC Direct has been easy enough for me to deal with. The log-in security issues are a bit annoying, but this seems to be a trend spreading throughout all online financial accounts. Although I did not tell her this — this site is supposedly anonymous so I don’t bring attention — I maintain a list of online savings account interest rates.

I also suggested 6-month CDs. The highest APY offered on 6 month CDs, according to BankRate.com, is 5.51%. That’s significantly higher than HSBC Direct, but early withdrawals can draw penalties. I would have to know more about her financial situation to determine if she has enough emergency cash to allow her to tie up the funds for six months.

Maybe I’ll get invited to the wedding.


It was actually two weeks ago that I posed the question about the “biggest weakness” question that we’ve all experienced in some form in job interviews. Some great responses followed, and one was randomly selected to win my copy of The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read, which I reviewed earlier this month. Here’s a few selected anecdotes provided by readers:

Kira said:

When I interviewed for my current job, I thought everything went really well – we seemed to all hit it off and they seemed impressed by my qualifications. Right off the bat, everyone assumed I was a whiz with computers and math (somewhat yes, completely no) – my supervisor told me recently that they assumed I had those qualifications, though we didn’t talk about them at any length in the interview, because I wore white socks with black shoes and therefore I must be a geek.

Jeremy was asked the dreaded question:

I ended up saying one of my biggest weaknesses was the fact that I have trouble delegating work. I can have a hard time letting go of control over every aspect of a project, thus I end up doing a lot of mundane tasks that eat up time that could be better spent doing more appropriate tasks.

The winner of the giveaway, samerwriter, was on the other side of the conference room table:

We’re always told to ask this question (or similar “behavioral” questions) when we interview potential employees. I don’t like them, for the reasons you mentioned. You really wind up testing someone’s interview skills rather than their job skills. Other examples of this type of question are “Give me an example of a time when you failed.” But what you’re looking for, and you don’t need to be a psychologist for this, is someone who recognizes that they aren’t perfect.

Here are the rest of the comments.


Here is what I’ve been looking for: specific reasons for my lack of wealth at the age of 30, stemming from my childhood. Count on Money Magazine to let me know how I am not worth all I could be (and to have another quality list, like yesterday’s 8 smart year-end moves). Here are gifts you can give your kids that may help them “get rich,” or at least think intelligently about money management.

* Teens: Match whatever your working teen puts in his or her Roth IRA. Start with Vanguard or TIAA-Cref.
* Young readers: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst.
* Young gamers: Payday, a fun board game that teaches money management.
* Teen gamers: The Sims 2: Open for Business Expansion Pack, in which you can run your own virtual business.
* All kids up to 18: Contribution to a 529 plan. Savingforcollege.com is a good resource for these tax-deferred education savings plans.

The good thing about these gifts is they stand the test of time. You don’t have to worry about buying into the right fad or getting the latest and greatest toy. Those gifts will soon be fogotten about, but the above gifts will last for a long time and have a positive effect.


Money Magazine: 8 Smart Year-End Moves, Part 2

by Luke Landes

Here are four more smart year-end money moves, according to Money Magazine. I only conditionally agreed with the first four, so let’s see how the magazine did with the remaining tips. 5. Set your sights clearly. They suggest deciding well in advance the destiny of any year-end bonuses. This will prevent splurging to some extent. ... Continue reading this article…

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Today was “Cyber Monday.” Did You Spend?

by Luke Landes

The marketing gods have dubbed the Monday after Thanksgiving “Cyber Monday” due to the increased online sales with typical e-commerce retailers like Amazon.com as people stumble or roll back to their offices. Rather than getting back to business, they’re not in the mood for work and would rather shop online, possibly looking for deals. Rick ... Continue reading this article…

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Money Magazine: 8 Smart Year-End Moves, Part 1

by Luke Landes

Money Magazine suggests eight money moves people should consider for the end of the year. Here are some thoughts. 1. Take your losses. Money suggests selling poor-performing stock to offset ordinary income for tax purposes. In my opinion, this depends on the stock. If the future does look bleak, go for it, but if there ... Continue reading this article…

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Bad News for Affiliated Computer Services

by Luke Landes

For the last several years, Affiliate Computer Services has provided the technology that allows me to work with my student loan accounts online, tasks which include scheduling payments in advance, viewing tax forms, and staring at the pit of debt wondering if I concentrated hard enough, the money would no longer be owed. Apparently, this ... Continue reading this article…

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Did You Miss National Retirement Planning Week?

by Luke Landes

While I was in California, I heard the venerable Ben Stein on the radio. (Why doesn’t he have a blog yet?) He was being interviewed for National Retirement Planning Week, which apparently started on November 13 this year and presumably ended one week later. I hadn’t heard much about this event, so I tried to ... Continue reading this article…

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Ending the Week

by Luke Landes

It was a bit of a light week for me in terms of blogging due to my traveling and visiting with family. It’s time to get back into the swing of things. Look for a book review later this week, as well as an announcement about the winner of the latest giveaway. Here’s what has ... Continue reading this article…

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Happy Thanksgiving!

by Luke Landes

From all of us here at Consumerism Commentary (that is, me) to all who celebrate Thanksgiving today, have a happy holiday! I’ve been in California with my family for the last few days, and I’m thankful I have the means to travel to see them twice a year. Regular posting will return next week after ... Continue reading this article…

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U.S. Mint Will Try Dollar Coins Again

by Luke Landes

The U.S. Mint has unveiled the first designs for the new Presidential Dollar Coin program. The new coins will feel identitcal to the Sacagawea coins that begun production a few years ago. For some reasons, the American public just doesn’t like dollar coins. Most vending machines won’t take them, and companies don’t want to retool ... Continue reading this article…

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Money Gifts Better Than Cash, Better Than Things

by Luke Landes

These gifts may be a good choice for younger people who are just starting to get interested in taking care of their financial lives, from Chuck Jaffe and MarketWatch. 1. Shares. Buying a newborn baby shares — or even just one share — of a certain company is a nice way to start off a ... Continue reading this article…

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Young and in Debt: Five Twenty-Somethings Share Stories

by Luke Landes

U.S.A. Today is featuring a six-week series following five twenty-somethings and their adventures in debt. Debt seems to be the primary concern of most people as they emerge from their undergraduate education and begin working or continue onto graduate education. One of the first articles in the series, Young People Struggle With the Kiss of ... Continue reading this article…

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Welcome Readers from Lifehack.org and Get Rich Slowly

by Luke Landes

It’s getting close to Thanksgiving here in the United States, so I must thank J.D. from Get Rich Slowly again for posting my story about how I treat my finances as a business. Welcome to my new readers coming from his blog as well as from Lifehack.org. Please feel free to roam around Consumerism Commentary, ... Continue reading this article…

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There’s No Way to Sugarcoat This: I Spent Too Much This Weekend

by Luke Landes

I attended a wedding this weekend, out of town. I thought I had prepared properly by trying on my clothes before leaving for the weekend, but I must have grabbed the wrong slacks at the last minute. Needless to say, I created an emergency for myself the day of the wedding. Well, this was as ... Continue reading this article…

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Rockin’ the Suburbs: Y’all Don’t Know What It’s Like

by Luke Landes

Early tomorrow morning, I’ll be boarding a plane to head out to California for Thanksgiving. I’ll still be posting, but perhaps not as frequently. To hold you over, here are some lyrics from one of my favorite musucians, Ben Folds. It’s about life in suburbia, something which many of us can relate to.

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Wesabe, Web 2.0 Tool for Tracking Finances: Useful or Useless?

by Luke Landes

At first look, Wesabe is a combination of Intuit Quicken and the ubiquitous Web 2.0 folksonomy systems. Over the next week while I’m in California, I’ll take a deeper look. What I’d like to discover will be whether the software will be able to replace Quicken, and if not, what is the value in the ... Continue reading this article…

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Money-Saving Tips for Shopping Online

by Luke Landes

This is a guest post by Jacquelyn Lynn, a widely published business writer and experienced online shopper. She is the author of Online Shopper’s Survival Guide and maintains a blog, Online Consumer Advice and Commentary. Shopping online is the easiest way to find the lowest price for whatever it is you want. But there are ... Continue reading this article…

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Welcome Readers from U.S. News & World Report

by Luke Landes

I was interviewed for a piece about blogging about retirement the other day, and the article has now been published on U.S. News & World Report’s online edition. If you are visiting Consumerism Commentary from the article, welcome to the website! Check out my retirement posts or find out more about me and Consumerism Commentary. ... Continue reading this article…

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