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December 2006


I have some exciting things planned for 2007, but I’m always looking for fresh things to write about. I’ve set up a new email address to take suggestions from readers. If you have something you’d like to share, or if you have a question you’d like to see answered — keep in mind I’m not a financial professional — send an email to tips at this domain name, consumerismcommentary.com.

Feel free to suggest topics or anything else relating to the website.

By the way, I do promise to finish up the series on my experiences with the University of Phoenix Online. I’m in the process of going through the papers I have written to recreate what I’ve learned. I apologize to everyone who is still waiting for the series to wrap up.

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Here are a few articles I’ve found interesting from the blogs of the MoneyBlogNetwork and beyond over the past week.

AllFinancialMatters provides an update on his retirement portfolio performance. Speaking of retirement portfolios, Blueprint for Financial Prosperity asks if yours is tax-efficient. Five Cent Nickel provides a calendar of important 2007 tax filing deadlines.

Free Money Finance was on vacation this week and his site provided links to some of his previous articles, like Should Retirees Carry Life Insurance. Mighty Bargain Hunter relates investing to crocheting.

Experiments in Finance wonders how much net worth one needs to be “rich.” “Him” from Make Love, Not Debt describes his plans to develop a joint retirement portfolio with “Her.”

Tonight, I’ll be spending my New Year’s Eve with A. at her friend’s house for a small get-together. I have a good feeling about 2007 and I hope everyone has a healthy and prosperous year!

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I promised I would determine and publish my goals for the upcoming year by the end of the week. Giving myself a deadline motivated me to think about it. Here are my regular and stretch goals for 2007. They are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based). I’ve tried not to include variables over which I have no control.

For example, the director of my department told us several weeks ago that no one should expect a raise this year. No matter how I perform in my day job, I am limited to what the corporation provides, and financial services companies of the type I work for are notoriously cheap. It doesn’t help to be located in a “distant suburb” rather than the city. And it doesn’t help that my department generates no profit for the company.

Without further blabbering, here are the financial goals. Read the full article →

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Before I can define my financial goals for 2007, it’s nice to review the basics. What are goals? I think Etta Mae Westbrook, a “family economics” professor, explains it well [pdf]:

* Goals state what you want to do or achieve. Goals will give your life direction. Financial goals will help you to determine where your money will go.

* Goals should be an extension of your values. If the goals are not related to your beliefs about what is important and good in life, the possibility of your achieving the goals is unlikely. If you do achieve a goal not related to the values you hold, you will probably feel unrewarded and dissatisfied.

* Goals need to be specific. The goal, I want lots of money in the bank, has little meaning. Is “lots of money” $5,000 or $50,000? When will you know you have “lots of money?” Write each goal in specific terms. Write the goal in terms you can measure.

Goals can be long-term, but they don’t have to be. The goals I want to set for myself this week are for one year from now, a short time frame. They should be in line with my longer term goals, which I’ve never really outlined here before.

Many people, especially those with business degrees, have heard this before: goals should be SMART; that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Attainability, or realism, is an important piece neglected by Westbrook’s article. I could, for example, set a goal to earn $1,000,000 in income next year, but what would be the point? It is extremely unlikely that will happen, and I’m not being a pessimist. That’s just the way it is. Montana State University has a short article about setting realistic goals.

Setting realistic goals allows success, and success breeds more success. The goals shouldn’t be so realistic that they’re easy, though. I like what Jim from Blueprint for Financial Prosperity has done: define regular goals and stretch goals. This allows you to take into consideration many unpredictable variables.

I also like the Setting Financial Goals series on the new blog, Personal Finance for Students and Fresh Grads.

I promised that I would publish my goals by the end of the week, which happens to be New Years Eve. I’m still working on them and time is running short; let’s see if I can keep the first 2007-related promise to myself.

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Don’t Forget to Use Your Gift Cards

by Luke Landes

This year for the holidays, I received gift cards for Circuit City, Amazon.com, Best Buy, JCPenney, and even Wendy’s. Besides the usual warnings with gifts cards (watch out for purchasing fees, reduction of value over time, and expiration dates), the most basic tip goes often overlooked: Don’t forget to use them. I’ve heard that many ... Continue reading this article…

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The Carnival is Up and Looking for Hosts

by Luke Landes

The Carnival of Personal Finance was posted yesterday at My Personal Finance Blog. It’s another massive collection of articles, so here are a few to read first: * Voiding Optional * How to Incorporate Your PayPal Account Into Quicken * Become an Amazon.com Price Drop Ninja * Beat the Average Raise I contributed The Good, ... Continue reading this article…

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Business Credit Cards With Cash Back and No Annual Fee

by Luke Landes

In 2007, I plan on creating an official business entity (LLC) to handle any income not coming to me from my day-job employer. As I do more work online, I’m dealing with more expenses, so I’m going to look into getting a business credit card. Having a card with no annual fee is important to ... Continue reading this article…

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Planning and Goal Setting Week: Share Your Goals

by Luke Landes

I plan to use my time this week to review my financial progress in 2006 and set some concrete goals for 2007. I’ve never been a fan of concrete goals because so far, unexpected surprises have had effects on my progress every year for my adult life, sometimes positive, but sometimes negative. This unpredictability has ... Continue reading this article…

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Weekly Blog Roundup, Holiday Edition

by Luke Landes

Here are some articles from the MoneyBlogNetwork and beyond from the past week. If you haven’t seen these articles already, take a look; you’ll find something good to read over the holiday. What Kind of Millionaire Do You Want to Be? Blueprint for Financial Prosperity has a frugal tip: rent economy cars and avoid airports. ... Continue reading this article…

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Rule for Building Wealth: Defer Taxes

by Luke Landes

Fortune Magazine’s tenth rule for building wealth is appropriate as the end of the year approaches. The magazine suggests taking advantage of a tax rule that lets investors deduct $3,000 of a realized loss from any realized gains. Since you are taxed 15 percent on realized gains from stocks, bonds and mutual funds held for at ... Continue reading this article…

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Suze Orman’s 5 Tips for 2007

by Luke Landes

We’re rolling into the new year, a perfect time for gurus to repeat their favorite nuggets of advice. Suze Orman, who writes a column for Yahoo Finance, has published the five best financial moves for 2007. Here are her tips, which don’t have much relationship to 2007 specifically, but are good ideas in general. 1. ... Continue reading this article…

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Credit Cards, Part 3: The Ugly

by Luke Landes

This is the third and final part in a short series about credit cards and the people who use them. If you haven’t yed, read Part 1: The Good and Part 2: The Bad. Keep reading for something ugly. Part 3: The Ugly Credit cards are in business to make money. The fact of the ... Continue reading this article…

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Fund Roth IRA in One Lump Sum?

by Luke Landes

2007 will be the first year that I could theoretically fully fund my Roth IRA on the first day of the year, rather than spread the investments out throughout the year. If I were to do this, it would present an increased risk into my portfolio. I want to buy when the market is lower, ... Continue reading this article…

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Jonathan Saved Me 17%

by Luke Landes

Jonathan from MyMoneyBlog posted about wireless plan discounts based on the company that employs you, so I decided to look into Verizon’s Employee Discounts to see if I qualified. Good news! Within the next two billing cycles, I will have a discount of 17 percent applied to my bill. This discount is for personal cell phones, ... Continue reading this article…

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Rule for Building Wealth: Ditch Credit Card Debt

by Luke Landes

Isn’t it ironic that while I’m in the middle of writing a series about good credit card use vs. bad credit card use, to be concluded later today, I came across the ninth rule for building wealth from Fortune Magazine: ditch credit card debt. Fortune is talking about the Type A credit card user, who ... Continue reading this article…

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New Computer Has Arrived, What Should I Do With the Old?

by Luke Landes

Yesterday, the shipment containing the new Dell Inspiron E1705 arrived. I took it home, configured everything and put it through the motions. It looks and runs fantastic, especially after today’s shipment, 2GB of speedy RAM, arrived. I got a great price on a machine with all the features I wanted, so waiting four months paid ... Continue reading this article…

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Credit Cards, Part 2: The Bad

by Luke Landes

This is the second part in a short series about credit cards and the people who use them. If you missed the first part, take a look. Part 2: The Bad If you are a Type B credit card user, you are making money off the credit card companies, not the other way around. Taking ... Continue reading this article…

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Rule for Building Wealth: Hold Down Fees

by Luke Landes

If you’re employing the service of others — for example, when someone manages your money (comingled with others’ money) in a mutual fund — then you should be familiar with the idiom, “Nothing in life is free.” Mutual funds, even index mutual funds, have a management fee or “expense ratio.” You may have to find ... Continue reading this article…

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Credit Cards, Part 1: The Good

by Luke Landes

If you listen to gurus like Dave Ramsey, you may find yourself feeling like you’re listening to a sermon in which the evil character is the credit card rather than the devil. Perhaps the two are interchangeable. Yes, credit card companies use marketing to lure customers with the hope of making tons of money in ... Continue reading this article…

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Rule for Building Wealth: Go Heavy on Stocks

by Luke Landes

The latest “rule of thumb” is to subtract your age from 120. The resulting number is the percentage of your allocation that should be invested in stocks, optimally through index fund investing. This was rule #6 in Money Magazine’s 25 Rules to Grow Rich By. In The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing (asset allocation chapter reviewed ... Continue reading this article…

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